Walgreen posted a 4.4 percent increase in sales at stores open at least a year as strong demand for Easter merchandise helped offset tepid sales growth for prescription drugs.
Pharmacy same-store sales rose 0.8 percent, hurt by lower-priced generic drugs, a slower flu season and the switch of allergy medicine Zyrtec to over-the-counter status. The number of prescriptions filled at established stores fell 0.1 percent.
Same-store sales of general, or front-end, merchandise rose 11.3 percent, helped by the early Easter, which came in March this year and April last year.
Walgreen and rival CVS Caremark , the two largest US drugstore operators, have seen sales of general merchandise hurt by the weak economy, but Walgreen said front-end sales in March exceeded expectations because of strong Easter sales.
Total sales rose 10.6 percent to $5.11 billion in March, the company said.
Walgreen shares edged up in premarket trading.